Friday, February 3, 2012

A Strange Phenomenon

This post is probably going to jinx the situation but I can’t resist sharing an odd teenage phenomenon that I’ve noticed over the years.

In my experience, kids hit 16-17 years of age and suddenly they don’t really mind hanging out with the parents. I’m not talking about hours and hours of time  - but compared to the hibernating-want to be anywhere but with you-experience of 13-15, even twenty minutes of unforced time together feels like such a treat.

Or maybe my kids are simply brilliant and like cats they’ve figured out that after years of not wanting me to hold them, gracing me with some time together feels so special.  Because what they’ve wanted the whole time is actually a really good ear scratch not being held hostage on my lap while I smother them with love and attention.

My youngest is now in possession of her driver’s license. The cage door has opened and her sense of self determination has just grown exponentially.  She didn’t see the tears in my eyes as I watched her head out of our driveway that first time or hear my prayer to every god and goddess possible to watch out over her as she begins navigating this new world of driving.  She got my smile and wave with a quick “be safe.” I let go – fly baby fly.

Something shifted this past year in our relationship. Talking to a friend the other night, I realized what it was – at least for me.  Teenagers, heck, kids period, always have an edge where danger lurks. When they are little, it is literally sharp edges and small objects.  With Teenagers - it is date rape drugs, pot, drinking, peer pressure, bullying, drugs – need I go on? For me-as-parent, seeing that edge in my child’s life is terrifying.  Add in a few personal memories of my own mistakes and I’ve practically gone crazy with worry.  It’s been especially challenging with this last precocious, smart and savvy child of mine. 

What shifted?  Well – the edge did.  Somehow, someway my perception of what will demolish her – that edge with razor sharp teeth – has moved a lot farther back into the landscape of my concern. Trust has had a lot to do with it and yet I will also say that it is also recognition that she is making her own choices now.  There are still some places in our relationship that I am responsible for her well-being but, for the most part, let’s face it: a 16 ½ young woman is working out her own way of taking care of her Self. Thinking back, this happened with my other two children as well.  That isn't to say that I never worry - but it has changed scope.

Does my youngest sense this? Did my other kids sense the shift? I was delighted that she wanted to sit and have dinner with me and a girlfriend last night. All sass and humor.  Is it also part developmental shift as she comes out the other side of puberty and starts getting curious about others who are close to her? She has even been asking me how I am. What’s up, Mom?

Puberty is a cocoon.  One of many that we get to experience in our life. Watch those new wings unfold - admire the colors and patterns that make up this new emerging adult. And then...

Soar, baby, soar high.


  1. Preseptive, beauiful and caring -- and sometimes love means lettin go - and trusting in a beautiful and extremely intelligent young lady. That trust for me was never easy BUT fortunitely, a lot took place that I never knew about, but in the end, mostly, it turned out great. There is always that point where all of a sudden you realize your children are adults and want to be treated that way. They want to treat parents as equals. How will they ever know how to make the right choices unless they learn the hard way by experience. Because of the generatin gap, they don't thnk we understand what their world is and maybe they are right. We want them to learn from our experiences but they were at a different time and place. In the animal kingdom it is so much easier - "let them go and find their way", but for us humans, we will worry and be concerned about our children for the rest of our lives.